Every morning since I moved in with my host family, like it or not, I’ve been awake before my iPhone alarm, before the sun has risen, before anyone in their right minds should be awake. All because of an
lovely OBNOXIOUS bird squawking to its heart’s content. This bird has a screech that has penetrated both my normal ear plugs, as well as my noise cancelling headphones. Like a lot of things about my life these days, I’m learning that the bird is never going to change – so I have to. As a result, my new bedtime is somewhere between the hours of 8-9pm and my unsolicited wake up call starts around 4am. I can usually toss and turn and grab a little more sleep until I give up the battle and get out of bed around 5am.
Amazingly, Kun Mae (my host mom) is always awake before me, she’s usually in the kitchen prepping breakfast for me and her sister, Kun Ahn, (I think?!) who lives in the house next door to us. They typically eat breakfast together at Kun Ahn’s house while I eat in my house by myself and then get my things ready for the day. I usually leave my house just before 7am and head out on my bike down the road to my fellow Trainee and friend’s house. We ride together most days and it’s become one of my favorite rituals.
Our training day starts at 8am and usually doesn’t end until 4:30 or 5pm. Four days a week we spend 4 hours in the morning in small groups of 4 or 5 working on our Thai. We break for lunch and then spend the afternoon on technical sessions (learning about teaching, writing lesson plans, classroom management tips, etc). On Monday’s we spend the full day as a large group also in sessions which range from safety & security tips, to getting vaccinations, to current volunteers giving us input from their experience.
By the time 5pm rolls around, we occasionally head to a coffee shop or 7/11, or relax at the hub where the staff provides wifi for us. But usually, it’s straight home. I wish I could say that coming home at the end of the day is a highlight, but if I’m being honest, it’s usually one of the most difficult parts of my day. The reality of this experience is that we are “on” 24/7. There is no break. There is no relaxing. There is no processing. I’m an introverted slow processor who values deep friendships and connections, who is living in a culture where I’m with people 99% of the time, have no down time to make sense of things, and I can’t communicate. THIS. IS. HARD.
After a weekend of heartbreaking news in US politics, today’s sessions focused on diversity, resiliency, and sexual assault. You could feel the pain radiating from our training room today. It came out in tears and hugs and whispered assurances. We, as a group, are ragged right now. It was a day with a lot of feelings after three weeks of unimaginable change. It was necessary, and touching, and so therapeutic to get it all out.
As I got home tonight, I remembered that stupid bird. I started thinking about how I adjusted my bedtime because I knew the bird would wake me up early, and maybe it’s cheesy, but it feels like a metaphor for this experience. Our lives here are different than they were back home, because that is what we signed up for. Thailand and it’s rhythms and idiosyncrasies, as well as Peace Corps and the job I’ve signed up for, are not going to change; and so I must be the one to adjust. The day’s are long. Hot. Content filled and emotionally charged. Some day’s just plain suck, but there are mechanisms to cope, people to connect with, and relationships to foster that will make the day’s a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.
A previous PCV passed along a quote from those before us that I really love.
“Maybe right now you aren’t sure you can make it through two years, but you can make it through today.”
So that’s what I’ll do. I’lll try my best to enjoy every moment, but when that isn’t possible, I’ll remind myself that I only have to make it to 9pm. Then, after a good night’s sleep, that lovely bird will ring in a fresh day full of it’s own possibilities.